What are WordPress themes?

One of the key features of WordPress is themes. A WordPress theme is basically a design – a design you can easily add to your WordPress site.

No coding or special skills are needed, plus you can switch themes like you change outfits!

There are thousands of WordPress themes to choose from too, both free and paid, and every theme offers a different look and quite often different functionality.

There’s a theme out there for every requirement, such as…

  • Traditional 1, 2 or 3 column blogs
  • Single page business sites
  • Gallery themes for artists / photographers
  • Ecommerce themes for shops
  • Portfolio themes

Free themes vs premium themes

There’s no shortage of free themes available, and the best place to look is on WordPress’ official Theme Directory. There are literally thousands to choose from there, and you’ll almost certainly find something to fit your design and functionality requirements.

You might be thinking, why pay for a premium theme when there are so many free ones out there?

There are three primary reasons why…

Overall quality of design and code

This doesn’t apply to every free theme, but free themes can often be either outdated stylistically and might not have been written with the cleanest code. As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for”. Why would a really talented designer give away a design for free? Having said that, there are still plenty of great free themes out there worth trying, but overall premium themes are of a higher quality.


Free themes are unsupported, and often you’ll have trouble finding anyone to help should you have any questions or encounter any problems along the way. However, most premium themes come with priority support – often from the theme creator. Free support should be considered a major advantage and will definitely get you out of some tricky situations as you fine tune your theme.

Compatibility / updates

Some of the free themes available at the WordPress Theme Directory are several years old. This means that some free themes may have security vulnerabilities that wouldn’t be found in their premium counterparts. Often, free themes no longer receive critical updates and may fail to work with new versions of WordPress and certain plugins.

What to look for in a theme?

With so many themes available, both free and premium, it can be a chore finding the right one for your site. Here’s a checklist of what to look out for…


Check the theme is supported by someone, to some degree. Even if it’s just a few users helping each other out on a message board/forum.

Responsive design

Responsive design means a “fluid” design that automatically resizes depending on the screen resolution. This means your website will look great on any size device, whether it’s a desktop PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Regular updates

Make sure the theme is still active by checking when it was last updated. As time goes by, more and more security flaws become apparent in both themes and plugins, so finding a theme that is regularly updated is vital.


Is your free theme allowed to be used for business purposes? Quite often free WordPress themes are only intended for personal and non-profit use. If you use a theme for commercial purposes when it’s not allowed, you could end up in hot water with the theme developer. Always check the licence!

Reviews and ratings

Like everything online, if you can, find some reviews and ratings for your theme. Feedback and reviews of others will tell you immediately if a theme is worth testing out.

Simple, lightweight design

It goes without saying you’ll want to pick a great looking theme that has the functionality you need. However, try and find a live website which is using the theme and see how it feels to navigate around it. Is the overall layout and design simple enough to your visitor? Does it load quickly enough? Would you be happy with it to represent your site and/or business?

Now you know what to look for you can find the perfect theme to suit your website and industry.

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